Using SendGrid to mass email applicants

Civic Review does not allow you to compose and send mass emails to applicants. We restrict this in order to protect the email sending IP address that is used by Civic Review to send emails. If a client uses such a tool in a spammy way, it would affect the email “sendability” of all Civic Review clients, which would ruin the fun for everybody!

You can use a 3rd-party tool such as SendGrid or Mailchimp to send mass email by exporting a list from Civic Review, and importing that list into such tools. Tools like these usually have free tiers that smaller municipalities would likely fit into. We’ll cover SendGrid here, although the process should be somewhat similar in other tools like Mailchimp.

This guide is current as of Mar 24, 2020.

Set up your SendGrid Account

You’ll likely need help from your IT department for this part.

If you haven’t already set up your SendGrid account, obviously do this first. Once you have a SendGrid account, the important thing would be to setup the “Sender Authentication” part. Otherwise, there’s a high chance your emails will go straight to the spam folder:

The most important part is the “Domain Authentication” section. Doing this will likely require access to your DNS server or the domain registrar from where all your email addresses are (ex: cityville.org). You won’t be needing IT for the rest of this guide, their job is done. 👍

Export information from Civic Review

Go to the reports page in Civic Review and download the csv of a report that has all the information you need to be included in your email.

Set up your SendGrid account

As of this writing, SendGrid offers free accounts that allow you to keep up to 2000 contacts at a time. If you haven’t already created an account, head on over to https://sendgrid.com/ and look for a signup link or a “start for free” link.

Import your contacts into SendGrid

Once you’ve logged in to your SendGrid account, you’ll need to import the contacts (which come from the report csv you downloaded from Civic Review) into SendGrid. Go to Marketing > Contacts.

Then click “Add Contacts” and choose “Upload CSV”.

If you’ve already done this before, you probably already have a list for this made; in which case you can choose “Add contacts and include in an existing list”. If this is the first time, make sure you choose “Add contacts and include in a new list”. Give it an appropriate name. In this case, we’ll go with “Business Licenses”.

The next step is going to go through each columns and ask you to determine how SendGrid should identify those columns. Some of them (such as email) are easy for SendGrid to detect. But others, such as “Entity Name”, requires that you specify what this is.

Give the Entity Name a SendGrid Field Name and Field Type (as you scroll down, you’ll see other columns that need this).

Once all the columns are configured, hit “Next: Add Contacts” (button is at the top).

This will take you back to the main contacts page. Your list should be seen there now, and it may take a few minutes for the list to be done importing. You can refresh the contact count until you see it’s done.

Create an Unsubscribe Group

Even though these aren’t really marketing emails, SendGrid requires emails to have unsubscribe links in them. To do so you need to create an unsubscribe group (to keep track of anybody who has unsubscribed). Click on “Create New Group” and on the next screen give the group a name and description.

Create a Single Send in SendGrid

Now head over to the single send page in SendGrid.

On the next screen you can choose whatever design you want, but usually we recommend going with a simple layout; choose “BLANK TEMPLATE”.

After that, on the next screen, choose “Design Editor”.

Single Send Settings

Under the settings tab, setup the send settings (the “name” of this email, who it’s from, the subject, etc.

Under Recipients, choose the list we just created when we imported contacts. Also choose the unsubscribe group we created.

Build the Template

Now click on the “Build” tab and then drag a “Text” module over into the email body.

As you write your email, you can insert tags which will swap out for data from each contact. Each tag has a copy button, but be warned that if you paste a copied tag, it will likely mess up the email formatting, so we recommend you use “Ctrl+Shift+V” to paste (which removes formatting as you paste).

Send the Email

Once the body is complete, you can send the email using the send button at the top of the screen. The resulting emails will be filled in with data as such:


If you’ve already done this before, and want to send more emails to your list

If you’ve already done this, and want to send a new email, we recommend you:

  1. Re-export a list from Civic Review
  2. Clear out (delete) all contacts in SendGrid
  3. Re-import a list of contacts into SendGrid

From there you could reuse a campaign or create a new one if it’s a completely different email.

Delete all contacts from a previous email in SendGrid

Go to the contacts page and choose “Delete” for the list you want to delete.

Make sure you opt to delete all contacts associated with this list.

Then repeat steps above to import a new list.

Good luck!

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